This is the first legislative report of the First Regular Session of the 127th Maine Legislature. The Legislative Digest will be sent electronically or by mail weekly to Maine Farm Bureau members to keep them informed on legislation affecting Maine agriculture.
Maine Farm Bureau reviews each legislative bill. Bills that affect agriculture and rural Maine are further reviewed by the Maine Farm Bureau Legislative Committee, which then makes recommendations to the State Board of Directors on positions Maine Farm Bureau should take. These positions are based on Maine Farm Bureau policy adopted by the Voting Delegates at the Maine Farm Bureau Annual Meeting held last November.
MAKE-UP OF THE 127TH LEGISLATURE:
The Senate is composed of 20 Republicans and 15 Democrats, and the House is composed of 79 Democrats, 68 Republicans, 2 Independents and 2 Unenrolled members. There are plenty of new faces in the 127th Legislature.
In the Senate, only 20 of 35 members are returning incumbents. Of the 15 new Senators, five have no previous legislative experience. In the House, only 85 of the 151 members are returning incumbents. Of the 66 new members of the House, 53 have no previous experience.
MEMBERS OF THE AGRICULTURE, CONSERVATION AND FORESTRY COMMITTEE:
Peter E. Edgecomb, Chair (R-Aroostook)
Thomas B. Saviello (R-Franklin)
James F. Dill (D-Penobscot
Mailing Addresses and Phone Numbers for Senetors
3 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-1540 or 1-800-423-6900
Craig V. Hickman, Chair (D-Winthrop)
William Noon (D-Sanford)
Robert J. Saucier (D-Presque Isle)
Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville)
Michelle Ann Dunphy (D-Old Town)
Russell J. Black (R-Wilton)
Donald G. Marean (R-Hollis
Carol A. McElwee (R-Caribou)
Anthony J. Edgecomb (R-Fort Fairfield)
Maryanne Kinney (R-Knox)
Mailing Addresses and Telephone
Numbers for Representatives:
2 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-1400 or 1-800-423-2900
FARM BUREAU TESTIMONY
ON FDA’s PROPOSED FOOD SAFETY MODERIZATION ACT (FSMA)
December 15, 2014 – Maine Farm Bureau is concerned about the impact that FDA’s re-proposed FSMA rules will have on small Maine farmers. The agency should focus its limited resources on the sources of risk, rather than burdening small-scale farms and food businesses with unnecessary costs or ambiguous and vague requirements.
Maine Farm Bureau is specifically concerned about the issues discussed below.
Qualified Exemptions under the Tester-Hagan amendment: FDA should implement the Tester-Hagan provisions in a manner that doesn’t risk pushing a small-scale producer out of business with a too-hasty or erroneous decision to revoke their exemption and too-short deadlines for compliance. Specifically, before the agency revokes a producer’s exemption, the regulations should provide for normal due process protections, such as a specific statement of the reasons in the notice of revocation, a reasonable period of time (at least 90 days) for the producer to respond, and a required hearing. The agency should also provide at least a year for any small or very small producer whose exemption is revoked to come into compliance with the FSMA regulations. Requiring these small and micro-businesses to comply in a shorter time period than large scale Ag would effectively drive them out of business, which violates the intent of the Tester-Hagan provision.
- Water Standards & Testing:: FDA was directed by Congress to take a science- and risk-based approach to regulation, but the proposed requirements for irrigation water do not do so. Instead, the rules require that farmers’ irrigation water meet the recreational water standard; but it makes no sense to require a farmer irrigating his or her crops to use water that would be safe for swimming. We urge the agency to make the following changes:
- The FDA should not set a numeric standard until it has conducted a risk assessment specifically for water for agricultural purposes.
- The requirements for testing need to be clarified, including the options for when a farmer may test less frequently or use water that exceeds the standard. The current proposal, with its complex time delay logarithm, is extremely confusing and will inevitably lead to both higher costs and violations for farmers who simply can’t figure out how to reasonably comply.
- FDA should reduce the frequency of testing, requiring no more than 3 samples per growing season. As currently proposed, the testing frequencies are overly burdensome, lack scientific justification, and will impose significant costs on farmers.
- Domestic Livestock: FDA should not treat grazing like manure application and should not restrict diversified farms through unrealistic intervals between grazing a field and harvest of a crop. The maximum waiting period should be 120 days, with an option for a shorter waiting period if steps are taken to prevent or detect contamination of the crop, including the use of hand harvesting.4. Records and Recordkeeping Requirements: We urge the FDA to limit the recordkeeping requirements, particularly for farms that pack or hold produce from other farms, as follows:
- Accept records kept in the ordinary course of business that reflect the immediate buyer and/or seller, such as an invoice;
- Accept paper records, whether typed of handwritten (a requirement that records be kept electronically would be unnecessary, impose undue expense, and discriminate against those farmers who have no or limited access to technology);
- Require that the records be kept for no more than one year.
- Supplier Verification Program: FDA should remove the supplier verification program from the rule. At a minimum, FDA should remove the onsite audit requirement from the supplier verification program. The FDA should also remove the provision that qualified farms or facilities provide written assurances that they meet federal requirements. The supplier verification program effectively imposes an entire second layer of regulation on produce farms who are supplying ingredients to wholesalers and processors, an unnecessary burden that is not authorized by FSMA.
- Environmental and Product Testing: These provisions vastly increase the cost of the proposed rule and will drive many businesses out of business without necessarily improving food safety. FDA should drop these provisions entirely.